At 30,Tom has to play for money...not love!

The Football League Paper - - ADAM VIRGO -

JUST be­cause you’re a foot­baller, it doesn’t make you a mil­lion­aire. So when Tom Pope re­fuses to take a pay cut to stay at Port Vale, I’m with him all the way. Play­ers in League One and League Two aren’t on £100,000 a year. They prob­a­bly don’t earn that much more than some­one with a good job in the av­er­age town or city.

Yes, that’s a bit more than the av­er­age Joe. But there is no way on earth they can re­tire at 35 and never need to work again. You need to play in the Premier League for a num­ber of years to do that.

Even if you have one big move, like I did to Celtic, it won’t come close to giv­ing you that kind of se­cu­rity.

I’ve even known play­ers drop out be­cause they were bet­ter off else­where. One guy I knew was of­fered £700-a-week by a pro club in League Two but even­tu­ally signed for a part-time Ryman League side.

When I asked why, he said “Well, I got of­fered £500-a-week to play in Non-League and if I play for them I can work full-time with my old man and earn an ex­tra grand a week.”

Fans can be naïve at times. They think a player should take a pay cut and play for peanuts but it’s not fair.

It’s fine them say­ing, “You should play for the love of the club”. But if their boss turned round to them and said,“You should take a pay cut for the love of the company”, what would they do?

He could have kids, a mort- gage. If he’s on, say, £1,500-aweek and they’re of­fer­ing £800-a-week, will those costs be cov­ered?

Tom has scored goal after goal, sea­son after sea­son. He’s earned the right to make de­mands. And when you’re hit­ting the age of 30, you’ve got to be think­ing “This could be my last ma­jor con­tract”.

So I don’t blame him at all.You have to go where the money is. Peo­ple might say that’s a bit shal­low but when your ca­reer is over at 35, there’s no place for sen­ti­ment.

Re­tire­ment could be just around the cor­ner. I had to pack up at 29. And you never know when you’ll lose form.

When you’re at your peak, ev­ery club is in for you and ev­ery agent is say­ing “I’ll get you this, I’ll get you that”. But a cou­ple of bad sea­sons or one long in­jury lay-off and that phone stops ring­ing.

Leav­ing the game can be a mas­sive wake-up call. Rightly or wrongly, foot­ballers tend to live to the full while play­ing. If they’re on £80,000 a year, they spend £80,000 a year. Then you re­tire and sud­denly you can’t have that flash car on the drive.You can’t have that mas­sive mort­gage.You have to make big changes.

And clubs don’t give a toss about help­ing you.When I re­tired, I didn’t get of­fers to work and coach.

That’s why you have to make as much money as you can, as fast as you can.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

CON­SIS­TENT: Tom Pope, cen­tre, cel­e­brates scor­ing another for Port Vale with Lee Hughes, right, and Doug Loft

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